Recently, I met a young Irishman and a young Englishman who are in the United States on an exchange program to coach soccer to our country’s youth. I always enjoy welcoming new people to the country and hearing their stories. I asked where they were staying while they are here, and the Irish lad replied in his brogue, “With a host family. I don’t know how they find host families for us.” He began to crack a smile, “Who would want an Irishman and an Englishman living under their roof? I don’t even want an Irishman and an Englishman living under my roof, and I’m an Irishman!” Oh, the shenanigans that host family is in store for!
What a privilege it is to be welcomed into somebody’s home. It is a sign of welcome and trust. Think of bringing a girlfriend or a boyfriend home to meet the family for the first time. Being welcomed into the house is more than just coming under someone’s roof, it is entering into their family. There is a new bond that is forming. Think of the houses besides your own where you have a key to get in, or where you could walk in anytime. It is as if it were your own house. Mi casa su casa, Spanish speakers say. We are fortunate if we have those few special people in our lives in whose houses we feel completely at home. Oh, there are the places with warm welcomes where we are served coffee and cake, or tea and crumpets if that’s your preference (my youngest brother when he was a little kid loved tea and crumpets, although he mistakenly and hilariously said, “tea and strumpets”!) But then there are the places where we feel completely at home. We are not served coffee or tea; we get up and make it ourselves. We go to the refrigerator for a snack. We are more like family than friends in such places. What a blessing to be welcomed in such a way under someone’s roof!
In Matthew’s Gospel, we read the story of the Roman centurion who approached Jesus to ask healing for his servant. When Jesus indicated he would go to the man’s house, the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed” (Matthew 8: 8). Jesus praised him for his faith and healed his servant. At Mass, we
use the centurion’s words, slightly modified, as our prayer in preparation to receive Holy Communion. The amazing thing, though, is that despite our unworthiness, Jesus does not heal us from afar, but chooses to come “under our roof.” With an intimacy that transcends any other that we know, Christ joins his own life to ours so that our humanity may share in his divinity!
The Irish lad may have wondered who would be crazy enough to welcome him and his friend under their roof, but we are left wondering an even more profound question. How is it that Christ, perfect and pure, spotless and sinless, all just and immaculate beyond imagining… how is it that Christ should be crazy enough to come “under the roof” of a sinner like me? How is it that God should take flesh to “pitch his tent among us” (the literal translation of John 1:14) and then become humbler still, condescending to become bread and wine so that God Almighty could “enter under our roof”? The mystery of God’s love is unfathomable!
“Cur Deus homo?” asked St. Anselm: “Why did God become human?” His answer was that God became human so that we humans could become one with God. This is one answer to the mystery of the Eucharist. Why does God “enter under our roof” in Holy Communion? It is so that we may “enter under God’s roof” in the life of the Trinity. “Lord I am not worthy to receive you,” we rightly say. Christ responds by making himself helpless to resist us. If we only want to receive him—the slightest weak response of love to Love Itself—He is always ready to “enter under our roof.” Though we are sinners, we did not “receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear.” It is the Spirit of love we received, and “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear…” (1 John 4:18). Love bids us come, as the poet George Herbert indicated. At a friend’s house we feel like family. In the Spirit, we are made family: “we are children of God” because we “received a Spirit of adoption” allowing us to cry out “Abba, Father!” In the Eucharist, we are celebrating and preparing for our entry into the House of God, sacramentally being there already. By taking Him “under our roof” in love, He brings us “under the roof” of the Trinity, where we shall live in love forever.
Friends, on this note—our final union with God the Father, in Christ, by the power of the Spirit dwelling in us, a foretaste of which we have in the Eucharist—on this Trinity Sunday, I bid you all farewell. After more than two years of writing this blog, I have made the difficult decision to give it up in order to focus now on finishing my dissertation and earning my Ph.D. Your prayers for my success at the end of this doctoral journey are greatly appreciated. I pray for you as well, that your lives, like Mary our shining star who goes before us and guides us home, may be filled with the Spirit—a Spirit of love and not fear, open to God’s presence and grace in all people and in all of creation, and truly one with Christ, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.
Phot Credit for Mary, Star of the Sea: https://www.marystarhigh.com/about/mission.jsp